Menu Plan Monday–November 23 (Thanksgiving Week!)


We’ll be having the grandparents over for Thanksgiving on Thursday then celebrating with my sister and her family on Saturday. We usually do an “alternative” menu for our after-Thanksgiving meal: steak. Yum!

What we’re eating this week:

Monday–spaghetti

Tuesday–leftovers

WednesdayBBQ sandwiches, corn on the cob, salad (quick/easy because I’ll be cooking for Thursday!) We love the BBQ from a local restaurant/caterer, Pasgetti’s. Delish!

ThursdayTurkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce (homemade), chess pie, pumpkin pie, rolls (my responsibility)

Green beans, sweet potato casserole (Linda, my mother-in-law)

Fruit/jello salad, deviled eggs (Mom)

Friday–leftovers

Saturday–Steak, potato, salad at my sister’s. I’m going to take dessert: a cake, I think.

Sunday–simple supper/soup/sandwiches

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Begging for Accurate Communication!

Last year, I stumbled through kindergarten with partial information most of the time. I missed a few things, never got on the automated call list, and was cursed for car-line infractions due to my ignorance.

I have to say that I thought last year’s communication process was just short of terrible. I don’t blame our teacher; I think she did a good job communicating with parents. I think it was probably a top-down problem.

And, I know. I know the elementary school isn’t a well-oiled PR firm. But, really, people. I don’t expect much. Just laid-out guidelines for things that involve safety (like the car-rider line), an updated school lunch menu (how many times did I download the same menu from the week of April 4 until I just finally gave up?), and accurate dates.

I mean—this is part of your job. Communicating to students and parents. I really had high hopes that a new year would bring communication reform.

Silly me!

On the first day of school, the kids bring home folders with the entire school year dates listed on the back. Prior to that, I had downloaded the Metro district-wide school calendar. Yes, I am that geeky goober mom who sits down with five calendars and highlighter pens and marks every holiday, day off, and parent-teacher day.

And so, I marked Thanksgiving Break for Thursday and Friday, November 26 and 27, on our calendars. First: from the Metro print-out and then I double-checked the dates against the first-day folder list.

Imagine my surprise when I discover TODAY that school is OUT on Wednesday.

Hmmmpft.

Not sure when the change was made or who made it. But I would have liked to have known about it.

Really glad I found out today, rather than Wednesday morning.

My Christmas Shopping Complaint Against Toys ‘R Us


Dear Toys ‘R Us,

Do you KNOW how much money I have spent in your store and your sister store, Babies ‘R Us, since early 2003? Thousands and thousands of dollars, I tell you.

Do you KNOW how much money I would have spent in your store during the next–oh, say, six or eight years or so?

I’m not sure, but you’ll never know, either. Because of ten lousy dollars. Ten dollars, Toys ‘R Us. Because ten dollars is NOTHING to you, but it’s important to me.

I dutifully took the marketing bait this week, as I held onto the TRU flyer that came in my mailbox a few days ago:

This weekend ONLY! Friday night and Saturday morning ONLY! A sale. A sale that featured a $19.98 digital camera for only $9.99.

I thought that would be a perfect gift for our six year old daughter, who is obsessed with taking pictures but is not allowed to use my digital camera after she dropped and broke a camera of mine.

At $10, she can give it a try. If she is careful and enjoys photography, we may upgrade next year for a nicer camera. Heck, we may have even purchased it at TRU.

Today, the sale ran from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. It was 10:30 a.m. and I made a special trip to TRU for this camera.

OK–never mind that I didn’t have time really for this today because I’m still up against my writing deadline. Never mind that I had to wander the store trying to figure out where the camera may be. Never mind that I really lost a good half hour of my life that I’ll never get back.

(All of those particulars have nothing to do with TRU, but I throw them in here to show just how annoying this whole scenario was. I didn’t have time for this nonsense today.)

I finally landed in the electronics department. Armed with the flyer, I approached the sales clerk.

“Excuse me? Can you tell me where I can find this camera?”

She looked at it. “Let me look in the back and check the computer.”

She was gone a long time. A very long time.

“Ma’am? We are sold out.”

“Oh.” I waited for a consolation offer. None.

So I piped up, “May I get a raincheck?”

“We don’t do rainchecks.” Um, OK.

“Well, may I have a comparable product for the sale price then?” I thought that was a reasonable request. Most stores (home goods, big box, electronics) will price-match and honor competitors’ ads. I was in their store. I would buy from them. In. Their. Store. Hey, even Kroger substitutes brands to honor a coupon!

“Hmmm. I’m not sure. I think you’d have to do it with a product that is that same original price.”

“Oh, sure. That’s fine. I’d just like a comparable product.”

“Well, let me check with my manager and make sure.”

“OK.” I was confident the manager would agree. Heck, maybe they’d even throw in some Spongebob stickers or a Dora lollipop for my inconvenience.

The clerk returns.

“She said, ‘no’.”

Stunned, I said, “OK.”

And I marched right out of Toys ‘R Us, determined to never return.

Uh, you know, we are only a few weeks into the Christmas shopping season. You know that I have options, TRU. So many options. And I’m confident I’ll be able to get a great deal on a digital camera on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or later.

And I have a blog. I am a mom. With lots of friends who have kids who play with toys and wear clothes and watch videos.

See, TRU, here’s the thing. Your keeping $10 just cost you thousands. Because had you honored my request, I would have bought a carrying case to go with the camera. And a huge chunk of my kids’ Christmas presents this year and next and the next. And birthday gifts and swimming pool toys.

And I would have blogged about how awesome you were to all my mom friends.

But now?

Not so much, Toys ‘R Us. Not so much.

THANKSGIVING DINNER: Cornbread Dressing

One week from tonight, I’ll be dozing off after a day full of turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Last week, I gave you the recipe for my mother’s perfect turkey. Today, I post her dressing recipe (with a few of my tweaks). I’ll also be posting this recipe on Group Blog Thursday over at Steph in the City.


Cornbread Dressing

Make a pan of cornbread according to package directions. Allow it to cool, then cut and crumble it into bite-size pieces.

Chop one onion, two stalks of celery, and three cloves of garlic. Saute onion, celery, and garlic in 1/2 stick of melted butter.

Stir mixture into crumbled cornbread. Add salt and pepper and dried sage to taste. Add 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. Slowly add chicken or turkey broth by cupfuls until desired consistency (about 2-4 cups); we like it kind of mushy but not too watery.

Pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until the casserole is browned and bubbly.

THANKSGIVING DINNER: Things My Mama Taught Me


Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I decided to post a series of recipes that actually did come from my mom. (I’ll post recipes for cornbread dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and more within the days between now and Thanksgiving.)

First up: A Perfect Turkey

I promise that if you follow the directions for cooking this turkey, your turkey will turn out beautifully.

It’s a fool-proof, easy recipe.

A Perfect Turkey

one 16-pound turkey, thawed
one onion
two celery stalks
one stick of butter
1 cup of cold water
1 lemon, cut in half
kosher salt
ground black pepper
garlic powder
3-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove giblets. Rub outside of turkey with salt and sprinkle generously with pepper and garlic powder. Inside the cavity, place one peeled onion, two celery stalks, one stick of butter, one cup of cold water, lemon, and rosemary sprigs.

Wrap the whole bird in heavy aluminum foil, checking to see that it is snug and tight. Put wrapped bird in roasting pan and cover with the lid. Or, to make your own roaster, use two aluminum roasting pans to form a top and bottom.

Cook for one hour at 350 degrees. Then lower the temperature to 275 degrees. Cook for thirty minutes per pound (about eight hours for a 16-pound bird).

During the last hour (eighth hour), lower the oven to 250 degrees. At the end of that hour, turn the oven off. Allow turkey to sit in the cooling oven for about thirty minutes.

Cool turkey completely before slicing.

***

I know the timing can be a little tricky to figure out. Here’s a sample schedule (I’ll be doing something like this on Thanksgiving Eve):

8:00-8:30 Prep bird for baking
8:30-9:30 Cook at 350 degrees
9:30-5:30 Cook at 275 degrees

Set alarm for 4:30 to change oven temp
and go back to bed

4:30-5:30 Lower oven to 250 degrees
5:30 Turn oven off
5:30-6:00 Turkey sits in off and cooling oven

Move turkey to cool in refrigerator

11:30-11:45 Slice turkey and plate
Noon Eat Thanksgiving dinner

Ideas for Stocking Stuffers

When my sister and I were in high school and college, we loved Christmas mornings. Our father would take it upon himself to stuff our stockings with lots of interesting items.

Laura and I would guffaw as we pulled out random items from the stockings: Marks-A-Lot jumbo black markers, rolls of Scotch tape, and packages of Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gum.

His idea of stocking fun was practicality and office supplies.

Whether because of genetics or environmental influence, I have adopted my dad’s stocking stuffer technique. I tend to gravitate toward practical items for my kids’ stockings, too. They love them! The items aren’t expensive; they are useful; and they won’t rot their teeth.

Things that will appear in my kids’ stockings this year:

  • toothbrush (characters)
  • toothpaste
  • stickers of their favorite characters
  • socks (favorite characters)
  • colorful or character bandage strips
  • pencils, pens, crayons
  • notepads, notebooks
  • hair do-dads
  • fingernail polish
  • lip balm
  • small bottles of Play-Doh, bubbles
  • Glow bracelets and other miscellaneous small toys

Great places to shop for these items:

  • Go to Dollar Tree now! I find that Dollar Tree is always well-stocked on holiday items at the very beginning of the season. That’s right now because of the early push on Christmas this year. Today I found some cute notepads and pens and those magic wash clothes that begin as a small square but grow once they are wet. My kids love those types of things; so much more useful than cheap toys and a lot healthier than candy.
  • The one-dollar aisle at Target is another fabulous place to find these types of items. I found the Slinky Junior toy as well as Crazy Eight and Old Maid card games there.
  • I have gotten lots of good deals at Big Lots in the past as well. I haven’t been there yet this year, but I will go. They tend to have well-recognized brand name items for a LOT less money.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

Before I had children, I was such a good mom. I think a book was published a few years ago by that title or something similar. I only wish I’d thought of it first. It’s a sentiment that resounds loudly with me and most moms (if they are being honest) I know.

I mean, I had it all figured out: the “right” things to do and say to make my kids into perfect little angels.

I was so self-righteous.

Ironically, I’ve become the woman I used to judge. Because parenting—especially Christian parenting—isn’t quite so cut-and-dried.

I’ve now had a solid week to evaluate and ruminate over the oft-debated, sometimes controversial, issue of Christians’ celebrating and observing Halloween. We did celebrate it this year—and will continue to do so—and I think now I can articulate our reasons why and how they relate to our faith.

Growing up, we always celebrated this holiday with costumes and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and always a family time with my aunt and uncle and some of their friends.

As I entered adulthood, I began to encounter Christian parents who chose not to celebrate Halloween. My goodness. I had never heard of that before! They cited the pagan roots and rituals from which Halloween came as their reason to shun the holiday.

Well, of course, I decided then and there that I would not partake of such evil, and my children would not, either.

And then I had kids.

As with most decisions of this ilk, I was determined to explore the issue and come up with my own defense as to why we would or would not celebrate this holiday.

Could we celebrate in good faith? Could we trick-or-treat to the glory of God?

We did decide the answers to those questions were “yes” and “yes,” based on a soup of various experiences and convictions:

The first year we opened our door to hand out candy to our neighbors, I loved—absolutely loved—the community feeling. I loved chatting with neighbors and seeing cute little kids and meeting new friends. Like it or not, we in our neighborhoods rarely visit those who live closest to us. Our family tends to run in the same circles, and though we are called to be salt and light to those around us, I fear we rarely are because we just don’t get into the lives of those around us. Halloween night is a terrific opportunity to meet, laugh, and love on your neighbors.

After that first night of camaraderie and community, I decided that indeed it was a picture of the gospel. We gather with neighbors and caravan trick-or-treat through the neighborhood. We have the best time laughing and talking and eating and drinking. We are investing our lives in our neighbors, many of whom are not Christians.

I think the context of Halloween has changed such that deciding not to participate in a contemporary event based on how it began 2000 years ago, is kind of like abiding by Paul’s admonition that women should not have braided hair or wear gold. Contextually and culturally, the roots of the holiday are irrelevant. (Yes, I know that there are those people who practice witchcraft and celebrate such occult aspects on Halloween. But aren’t there persons who don’t believe in Jesus who celebrate Christmas? Should we not celebrate Christmas on that basis?) Halloween was adopted by the Church in an effort to redeem it. I say, let’s continue that redemption and reformation, Christians! And to be consistent, if one chooses to abstain from Halloween based solely on its pagan roots, then one should also not celebrate Christmas and Easter and throw out their calendars, as the months of the year and days of the week derive their names from pagan gods and goddesses.

• Abstaining from Halloween because of its “evil” associations is for me a stumbling block. That’s right. That abstention actually contributes to my sin.

I am such a Pharisee at heart that I’m quick to grasp anything that may make me feel superior or more holy or more righteous. I want to point to one something that I do or don’t do that shows everyone else I’m a Christian—and a good one at that. For me, it’s much more humbling and a greater exercise in dependence on Christ to participate within the boundaries of Christian liberty. It stretches me more as a Christian (and as a Christian mom) to participate while teaching the children about freedom in Christ and doing all to the glory of God.

We’ve had discussion after discussion with our six year-old about the difference between the delight, fun, and creativity associated with dressing as a make-believe fairy or princess as opposed to celebrating or calling attention to evil or demons. So, even within the parameters of the celebration, we are able to give Christian lessons.

• We also observe Reformation Day on October 31 with our kids. In 1517, Martin Luther set the Protestant Reformation into motion by nailing his 95 theses on the Wittenburg Castle door. That one act forever changed the Church and all of civilization.

I read an interesting post that has been floating around the Internet since 1996. Basically, it states that Halloween’s pagan origins have been grossly misunderstood and Halloween began as a Christian celebration of Christians mocking at Satan as he is defeated by Christ. I certainly applaud this sentiment. The problem is that I’m not sure if it’s true or not. I question the guy’s scholarship because I can’t find any original source anywhere. I will continue to research this, though.

Finally, I do not judge nor condemn parents for any decision they make for their family. For Christians, we are free in Christ. Whether you sit at home on Halloween night, take your little princess and pirate to the church fall festival, or trick-or-treat with the neighbors and roast marshmallows at a bonfire, it is a matter of personal conviction.

As with most everything in our self-gratifying, idol-worshipping, need-meeting culture, all holidays have become sensationalized and commercialized. Redeeming the holidays with a focus on something other than self and acquiring more, more, more! is a daunting task. But I think God calls us to be culturally relevant without compromise of conviction. Let us not forget that he has ordained all, including the time and place in which we live.

Photo credit: flickr.com by solyanka

Contemplating My Future

This morning, it occurred to me that in a few short weeks, I will do something really insane:

I will spend enough money to buy a nice pair of shoes on bags and bags of candy.

I will then take my kids on a time-honored ritual of going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood to ask for and receive candy from the homeowners.

With three kids getting candy, we will have at least three times as much candy as what I bought in the first place.

Inexplicably, I will have overbought candy and/or had a slow night, so we will end up with leftover candy. More than likely, we’ll have an unopened bag of a 500-count of something.

I will then—that very night—sort and loot my kids’ candy bags, paring them down to an acceptable amount of candy to be rationed out over the next year.

I will take all of the Reese’s peanut butter cup-related candy out and hide for myself.

I will throw a few handfuls of candy into the trash.

I will send at least two Ziploc gallon bags’ worth to work with Chris.

I will give at least one Ziploc gallon bag’s worth to my father.

I will throw another few handfuls of candy into the trash.

I will grumble and complain at the obscene amount of candy my kids got on Halloween.

I will supervise vigorous and thorough teeth-brushing.

I will watch my scale climb up five pounds.

I will then wonder, Now why didn’t I just avoid all of this and buy a new pair of shoes?

Wedding Adventure

When my twins were born, I lost my mind.

Then, I found it again, thanks to a precious angel named Audrey.

Audrey came to my home and took care of me–uh, I mean–the babies a few days a week. Audrey would do things like wash/dry/fold my laundry (exactly the way I liked it) AND put it away before I even knew it was dirty. One day she arrived at 9 a.m. with a roast and veggies: “Hey, Mary, I’ll put this in the oven for dinner, OK?” She kept our home neat and took good care of the dog. She expertly anticipated MY every need and the babies’ every need with impeccable timing and consistency.

I really don’t exaggerate when I say that she saved my life during that first year of the babies’ lives.

Last night, Audrey got married.

I wouldn’t have missed her wedding for anything. Not even a torrential downpour on a national holiday.

Not even.

Just as we got in the van to drive the 45 minutes to the wedding (with all three kids, mind you), the raindrops started coming. No biggie, we thought. These summer showers have a tendency to pop up and move out. Plus, when’s the last time we middle Tennesseans remember rainfall on the 4th of July?

We actually had trouble seeing the road at times as we headed east on I-40. When we almost missed our exit because of the blinding rain, we decided this was no pop-up shower.

The wedding was special for many reasons:

  • It was at the brides’ home
  • It was outdoors
  • It was a double wedding (Audrey and her sister, Courtney)
  • It was on the Fourth of July
  • It was my precious Audrey’s big day!

Rain did not fit in with this picture.

We got there and had to wait in line for the valet. All the valets were soaked from head to toe. We dropped off the van and carefully made our way (read: jumping over puddles and still managing to sink my sandal heel in mud) to the humongous tent. It was kind of bizarre because people were already sitting at the tables, which had obviously been set for the reception. We tried to figure out where to sit, what to do, and finally took a seat at an empty table near the back of the tent.

We decided that perhaps the original plan was to have the ceremony under a beautifully-decorated arch then the people were to move under the tent for the reception. But Plan B dictated that everybody and everyTHING begin under the tent.

The ceremony had to be postponed about 20 minutes because the cars were so backed up. Finally, at 7:20, the ceremony began.

My kids did surprisingly well, despite it was really their bedtime. Seth was a bit grumpy. He had fallen asleep on the way there. I whispered to him, “Look! There’s Ms. Audrey and her sister. Aren’t they beautiful?” He looked over the crowd and said, “All I see are princesses.”

And they did look like princesses. They were gorgeous. The bridesmaids were gorgeous. The decorations were gorgeous.

The ceremony was rather brief. I couldn’t see a thing, except the faint outline of one of the bridesmaids. Every now and then the rain would let up and you could almost hear the guests let out a sigh and a prayer: Maybe it’s stopped? But in a few minutes, we’d hear another roar of thunder and the heavy pitter-pat on the tent. Then, you could hear the ripple of the whispers, “Here it comes again!”

It really was quite a mess. I just felt for Audrey and Courtney and their parents. I know they had had visions of kissing in the sunset while their guests enjoyed fireworks on the grass in the gentle breeze.

Alas, it was not to be.

One of the highlights for me was the port-a-potty. I actually had rehearsed the whole bathroom thing in my mind: where will we go potty? In the poolhouse? Surely not inside the house? Oh, please, no, not one of those gross, chemical, green boxes! Of course I think about this because I have three kids.

Oh, no. This port-a-potty was AMAZING! It was actually nicer than the half bath at our old house. Seriously. It was a little trailer-looking building with three little rooms. I took Seth in. The potty had air conditioning and music playing over a loud speaker. The potty was a real one with water and flushing mechanism (no gross blue chemicals). There was a pretty floor and pretty walls. The counter was large enough to accommodate a bag and the basin was one of those new bowl-types with a sleek, silver faucet fixture. I’m telling you. It was comfortable and attractive. My kind of port-a-potty.

The food (full dinner spread) smelled incredible, but with cranky kids and all the bad weather, we opted to leave. We ran through some sprinkles and got to say hello to Audrey. As we made our way to the van, we overheard Audrey’s mom talking to the guy in charge of the tent. I heard her ask, “How much water will this tent hold?”

Apparently, there was some discussion of the cars getting stuck in the grass/mud combination and we had to creatively “meet” our van at a location other than the drop-off point, which was down the driveway a bit.

As I was expressing my feelings for Audrey and Courtney and what must be disappointment, my realistic husband reminded me: “You know. This really doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are married. In the end, they are married.”

Yes, they are. Congratulations and best wishes!

New Year’s Eve at the Kroger Little Clinic

This afternoon around two, Susanna started wailing, crying, screaming, “Maaaahhhhm!!! My ear hurts! I can’t hear. I CAN’T hear!!!! Maaaahhhhm!!!”

She’s quite the drama queen, so I let this go on for awhile and really tried to figure out if she was sick or just bored. (I think she probably frequents the school nurse’s office several times a week with some “ache” or “pain.”) After an hour of this screaming/crying/wailing, I decided to take her in for a look at her ear.

(To all mothers everywhere: don’t you just wish you had one of those light/ear thingeys and knew what you were looking for so that you yourself could just see if your kid has an ear infection? And don’t you wish that amoxycillin was over-the-counter and you could just go get it? And don’t you just wish you didn’t have to pay $25 and wait 2 hours just to find out what you already knew?)

So, with the pediatrician’s office closed (both because it is Wednesday and a holiday), we head over to The Little Clinic at Kroger. Let me just say that every single person who lives in the 37221 zip code decided to come grocery shopping on New Year’s Eve at 3 p.m. Anyway, we get there and I try to make sense of this convulted sign-in sheet.

Left corner is time slots by 15-minute increments: 3:00, 3:15, and so on. I thought I was to find the time that I arrived and sign by that time, then record my actual check-in time.

I DID NOT REALIZE THAT IN REALITY I WAS SIGNING UP FOR AN APPOINTMENT.

We actually arrived at 3:15. So, Debbie was before us and had signed in at 3:30. Lester had signed in at 4:00. 3:45 was empty, but I didn’t see Lester. So, I just signed in under Lester, which was 4:15.

Aargh. So, Debbie finally gets in around 3:35. Lester wanders up, and by the time he’s called in, I finally start to figure out this crazy system. Yes, Lester gets in next around 4:00. We are finally called in around 4:30 and get to leave at almost 5:15.

Now, if most of the appointments take 30 minutes or so, why, oh, why, are the slots at 15-minute increments anyway? But I digress…

Yep. That’s right: 2 hours of sitting at the Kroger check-out aisle with a screaming, wailing, “Maaahhhm! My ear hurts!” child. Thankfully, I was able to distract her for a little while with tic-tac-toe and guessing words and drawing pictures.

Really, the most interesting aspect of this adventure (besides my now burning desire to help Nurse LaTonya of The Little Clinic REWORK THE SIGN-IN SHEET!) is all the people I saw checking out at Kroger on New Year’s Eve.

In no particular order:
*2 of Susanna’s classmates
*a worker at Susanna’s school
*a worker at the Y
*a lady I know from Melaleuca
*one guy who was in my ballroom dance class freshman year at MTSU (that would have been 1989). I remember him because he was so weird and would wear the oddest boots to class.
*another guy I did student teaching with at Freedom Middle fall of 1998
*a former sorority sister
*a friend’s husband and two daughters
*our neighbors: dad and daughter
*one silver sequin top on big-haired lady

Now that’s a fun way to ring in the new year!

Happy 2009.